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How do you tell if a school is good?

17 replies

Blankiefan · 15/03/2013 19:11

I'm newly pregnant and we're moving house. I appreciate I'm planning a little ahead but as we're planning to buy "The Forever House", it makes sense to check out local schools (primary & secondary) to make sure we don't end up in a poor school catchment area...

But - how do you tell? Is there a standard measure /resource where you can check this out? How do you tell what's good? I feel totally clueless on this.


OP posts:
mrz · 15/03/2013 19:14

Your problem is that a school considered outstanding or good today could by the time your child is ready to enter reception have been placed in special measures ...

RainbowBelle · 15/03/2013 19:19

Ofsted rating is the first place to try - it's as simple as going to the Ofsted website and putting the name of your local school in the search box Smile

This will show the most recent Ofsted report (1=excellent, 5=awful) containing comments on the school and how it's run etc. It is a good starting place. Anyone can go on the Ofsted site - have a rummage round to check out nurseries too (if you are planning on using any nurseries).

However, don't assume that you will get into the nearest local primary school just because it's down the road. Ring the school and ask them for their list of criteria for selection and if there is a catchment area (some schools have an actual boundary whereas others judge distance nearest as the crow flies with no actual boundary).

It is very very important that you make school provision a key element in your search for a house. It might not seem that important now but in 3 years time you will be panicking if you live in a gorgeous house but beyond the catchment or selection criteria for a half decent primary.

Speaking of nurseries, if you are thinking you might need nursery or pre-school childcare provision especially for babies (childminders etc) now if the time to look! If you are thinking of waiting for a state nursery place (often attached to a primary school) the intake is from age 3 onwards. You need to apply ahead of your child's 3rd birthday. HTH!

RainbowBelle · 15/03/2013 19:21

Yes that's true mrz but it would be possible but not common to drop from outstanding to crap in a few years. Anyway, you can only judge on the information you have. Current and past performance is a better predictor than none Smile

Kazooblue · 15/03/2013 19:25

Erm no Rainbow if you get a new head(which can happen after an Outstanding inspection as they can go onto bigger and better things) schools can plummet quickly like ours has.On reading on here it's not that rare.Once you're there you're pretty stuck so to the op I would say it's pointless trying to read the future 5 years ahead.

lljkk · 15/03/2013 19:29

Higher rated schools, long run, tend to be in more affluent areas. it really is that simple. Buy a home in the poshest area you can, as close as you can to a school in the centre of that posh area.

RainbowBelle · 15/03/2013 20:02

I still don't think it's that common Kaz, although the parents to whom that has happened are bound to be vocal about it. Are parents really going to be starting threads on here saying "our chosen school was outstanding five years ago - it's still outstanding now - HELP!!!" Unlikely Smile

Kazooblue · 15/03/2013 20:06

Recently quite a few schools have dropped due to criteria changing and the fact you can no longer be Outstanding if teaching isn't Outstanding. An Ofsted grade isn't a badge for life it can change in a flash.

1805 · 16/03/2013 12:42

hmmm. I think just be prepared to move if it all changes.

Things I like in a school are

  • lots of extra curric. activities - music, sport, art etc
  • tidy and respected buildings
  • decent class sizes.
  • polite/engaged/well behaved children
  • provision for SEN/high achievers
  • decent results
  • how long is the current head likely to stay?
  • Do the teachers seem enthusiastic?
  • Do many pupils leave? Teachers too?

But what is important to you???? What kind of education will suit your dc - relaxed? Strict? Sporty? Arty? Academic? ????

Good luck with everything.
beanandspud · 16/03/2013 13:13

Some of it will depend on how flexible you are in terms of the move. If you were able to move absolutely anywhere in the country the ideal would be to identify an area where there are three or four nearby schools, all of which currently get good Ofsted results and where you would be happy with any of them as a choice. Even if one went downhill the chances are that you would have other choices.

Sounds great in theory but since most people don't have that luxury you would be better off deciding where you want to live and then investigating the schools in that area. If there are no choices that you'd be happy about you may need to look elsewhere. Even if you do find a great school that you are likely to get a place at be prepared that school ratings change and that the 'catchment' may shrink - in some areas you almost have to live in the playground to guarantee a place. The mn local boards may give you some more specific feedback on individual schools and areas.

mrz · 16/03/2013 13:40

"Yes that's true mrz but it would be possible but not common to drop from outstanding to crap in a few years" it doesn't take a few years just new Ofsted expectations...

RainbowBelle · 16/03/2013 16:39

mrz, I was referring to the few years between inspections Smile

mrz · 16/03/2013 16:55

I know RainbowBelle ... but in those few years between inspections OFSTED criteria can change and suddenly that outstanding school is no longer outstanding.

Niceweather · 16/03/2013 17:25

This seems ridiculous and even further off but also see if it is a feeder for a good secondary. Everyone at our local started panicking around Yr 4 and there was a huge exodus to feeder schools. On the other hand, if the secondary fills only from catchment then being at a feeder won't make any difference. So, I'd have one eye on the secondary catchment too.

JWIM · 16/03/2013 17:34

We were Good with outstanding in 2011. Since then the Ofsted criteria has changed twice. We expect an inspection in 2014 on the 3 year inspection cycle mainly as we have had a change of HT. We grade ourselves in our self evaluation now as requiring improvement (satisfactory as was!) due to different focus on Teaching and Learning - same staff, same above national average attainment, same 90% plus happy parents in surveys but different Ofsted focus.

Should add that we are working to raise our grading level to meet the Ofsted criteria. I'm not sure it will make much difference to pupil progress or attainment but not getting 'Good' would be detrimental for school reputation and therefore pupil numbers and a poor reputation can take years to turn around so the strategic view has to be 'to tick the Ofsted boxes'.

Mandy21 · 16/03/2013 20:35

HOw far are you moving? Do you know the area at all? Do you know anyone there who you could ask for their opinion? We moved areas about 5 years ago, 3 weeks before school applications had to be in. We knew the area we were looking at, so started researching as soon as we thought about moving. Started with Ofsted reports, then booked appointments with the schools for a tour and then did some viewings. Chatted to sellers about schools and estate agents to get a flavour of what the schools' reputations were. Then found a lady who lived here on a twins website and she gave me the lowdown on nurseries and schools. Then when we'd decided on the one we wanted, checked with school as to the catchment area and admission criteria, what our 2nd choice would be (and whether there was any cross over in terms of catchment) and then identified a number of roads that we liked but were also in catchment. After all that, we ended up going into rented accommodation because nothing came up which we could afford so we waited for about 18 months, and then bought.

harryhausen · 17/03/2013 10:37

Go to the school and chat to parents who's dcs already go there.

When I picked my dcs school they had a great ofsted. Then got a poor one within a few years of my dd startingHmm However I still liked the school and my dd was happy and doing well. I decided it would be silly to move her.

Our most recent osted has leapt back up to really good againSmile I'm glad I stuck with it.

It's really hard to tell, but gut instinct is always good. Hang around the school gates. Are the older children acting/being like you'd like your dc to be like when their older (within reasonGrin we all know kids can act up a bit with their mates!)

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